How to find out if your dog has a fever

Dogs, like humans, can get a fever and sometimes it is necessary to take their temperature. You take the temperature with a fever thermometer as it is not possible to tell if your dog has a fever by feeling its paws or nose.

A dog's normal temperature is 37.5 - 39.0°C at rest. If the dog has been exercising recently, the temperature can be as high as 40.0°C without the dog having a fever. Stress and ambient temperature can also cause the dog's body temperature to rise. Heat stroke will cause a severe rise in temperature which can be fatal if the dog is not helped quickly. Learn more about heat stroke here.

Causes of fever in dogs

Fever is a symptom and the body's inflammatory response to another illness. This is because many bacteria and viruses cannot survive at high temperatures. However, fever can also appear on conditions that are not linked to bacteria or viruses. Some autoimmune diseases and tumour diseases have been shown to cause fever in dogs.

The dog may also have a transient, mild fever when vaccinated which is perfectly normal. The vaccine "tricks" the body's immune system into reacting in the same way as a natural infection.

Symptoms of fever

In addition to an elevated body temperature, dogs may exhibit various symptoms that may indicate that your dog has a fever. When you suspect your dog has a fever, it's a good idea to take his temperature and then adjust his daily routine according to his needs.

Some symptoms of fever

  • The dog is more tired than usual

  • The dog has a reduced appetite

  • The dog is drinking more than usual

  • The dog is panting

  • The dog's gums look redder than usual 

How to take your dog's temperature

To take your dog's temperature, you will need

  • A rectal thermometer 

  • Ointment, Vaseline

Start by trying to get the dog to be calm, offer treats to give the dog a positive experience. The dog should be rested for at least 20 minutes before you take the temperature. Use vaseline on the thermometer to ease and reduce discomfort for the dog. Stroke the dog's back and touch the anal opening with the thermometer before inserting it and taking the temperature. The thermometer needs to be inserted about 1-1.5 cm.

Treatment of fever

Like humans, dogs should rest if they have a fever. However, if the dog has a rise in body temperature above normal and also appears generally affected, weak in the hindquarters and unwilling to move, you should seek veterinary advice.

If you are concerned about how your dog is feeling, we recommend that you contact a vet. As a Lassie insurance customer, you have unlimited video calls with digital vet where you can call for advice.

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